I’ve noticed some very scary stories of mercury contamination from old, outdated chlorine plants in the news the last couple of days. The good news is that both of the plants in question are finally getting cleaned up.
First, a chlorine plant in Sumgayit, Azerbaijan helped put that city on the Blacksmith Institute’s 2007 list of the Top Ten Most Polluted Places. Apparently the plant spilled a phenomenal 1,566 tons of mercury. That’s not pounds, people. It’s tons! Fortunately, the World Bank is running a project to clean it up.
Second, the Florida Times-Union reports that a plume of brine contaminated with mercury, arsenic and chromium suspended in groundwater under the former LCP Chemical chlorine plant in Brunswick, GA could reach drinking water supplies 600 feet below if it isn’t removed.
The Times-Union reports:
Before closing in 1994, the LCP Chemical plant produced chlorine and caustic soda, two chemicals widely used in industry.
During that time chlorine, mercury and other pollutants were illegally discharged into nearby streams. Spilled mercury and caustic soda also leaked from LCP’s decrepit production buildings, into the ground beneath them and eventually formed the caustic brine pool.
The plant closed in 1994 after the state Environmental Protection Division revoked the plant’s operating permits and six LCP officials were eventually convicted of violating federal environmental laws.
It was first thought that the mercury-contaminated caustic plume would remain contained in the surrounding groundwater. But in 2002 tests showed the solution had dissolved sandstone underneath and was entering an aquifer immediately below it.
It’s a good thing the plant stopped using mercury in 1994 and now the company that owns the site is pumping the toxic plume out.
In the US, there are only a few of these outdated mercury-cell chlorine plants left- four that have not committed to stop using mercury. Oceana’s Campaign to Stop Seafood Contamination is asking them to switch to modern, mercury-free technology.